Friday, December 31, 2010

Letter to F.

"Do other people have moments of peace and quiet? I'd really like to know the answer to that question" -W. Benjamin

"You can't have peace in life by avoiding life" -V. Woolf

It's been a long time since I last received a letter so beautiful as yours, thus, I felt ought to send you a letter in the proper sense of the word, something that could contain in a certain manner the gesticulation typical of a person addressed in such a personal manner, when he reads such a letter. For a long time now, I haven't been writing properly, at best, I've written notes and of course letters, to the people who deserve my intimatemost affections. There's something paralyzing about the times, the deadly effects of the present, that when free from the past, presses against your chest like a knife, philosophers would call this "absolute time", or even better, "Jetztzeit"; perhaps it is in the mood of philosophy, or in its obligation at least, to live always in the present, do you remember Etienne Gilson? He used to say that a man of 70 years might have so much to tell about himself but that if he's been a philosopher his whole life, he realizes to his own astonishment, that he's got no past. I've spent nearly the whole year in a sort of procrastination or avoidance if you want to use the French philosophical jargon, trying not to confine myself to the constrictions of something as cruel as philosophy; this is to no avail... I remember now how a former teacher of mine used to say that in philosophy what really matters is the choice, that once you choose yourself for that, you're as good a philosopher as you can ever become, you can learn how to go through the material, write conferencies, give lectures, etc. but the choice is somewhat stable. Something like this happens to me often, my journeys through the world are more like sightseeing, like being spectator more than they're an actual settling down. My book doesn't advance much, nor does my thesis, but somehow I feel I'm reaching a point in which this becomes serious business and not just one another avoidance of life situations.

I'm delighted with what I hear about your stay in Berlin, I would think there can be no better choice of a place for art, at least for the kind of art that feels itself to be still growing and not yet ripe. There are these lessons about one's age and position in the world (not only personal but also from the perspective of world history as such) that can be easily learned in Berlin, and in the whole of Germany, but certainly Berlin is a great example, you see, in Berlin it's helpless to feel young, or at least in other cases, that one's being given a second chance, a second chance to live in the most extreme manner, so to say, free from boundaries. Berlin reminds people like you and me that in a way we're still in the very first childhood and that it is only now that life is beginning to fall into place at long last or for a first time; something that is impossible to feel in Bogota where somehow life just goes on too quickly and unmolested by the facts of the world, a place so young and old that you and me in it, are older rather than younger, and then you see the people around you, everything seems right in the world to them, nothing appears to have done to them injustice, at least not undeservingly, like the Christian saints would put it. It's so beautiful to feel one can still be carefree, which is this contradictory feeling I have in Europe all the time, of never feeling my age at all, being infinitely younger than I am, like a child, at the same time that glamorously older, as old as God, yet never in one's own shoes. Perhaps failing is something that has to do much with being young but that can be done at any age, you see, if I'm correct, I think this month is already 9 years since I first met you, and yet in spite of everything one's still allowed to fail in the exact same way. Heinrich Bluecher, the husband of Arendt, used to tell his philosophy student that there are only two things one needs to know about philosophy: That you can only succeed in this, but this also means, that this is the only thing in which you can fail, and the only thing in which you can fail.

Remember what Benjamin said about Kafka: That any acquaintance with his literary production makes you realize that he was a failure as a writer. There's no way in which one can not fail in producing art or thought, because irrespective of the cruelty of aesthetics, beauty is lagging behind always in life and to life, it's only observable in the moment when you no longer possess, that's why the "academic studies" of beauty are always in such an inferior position like those "studies of time", in the moment you're participating in beauty or in time, you can no longer study it, you are ought to lose it in order to become an observator. Perhaps the same applies to love, which is so completely intertwined with both beauty and time. The youth and beauty of Berlin has to do perhaps with this seamless sense of unpretentious beauty, of chaos, the art of awful things, so unlike the cathedrals and the beautiful pathways in the stone, sometimes while living in Berlin you begin to imagine that there's not one single tree in the world, and then suddenly, a forest, then you begin to imagine there's not one single building in the world, and then suddenly, a gate, history strikes again. It turns out that if you're going back to the Fourth Reich in March to begin anew your German courses, for the first time in a long time, we might be in the same country at the same time and perhaps once again, as it's always been, in the same frame of mind. The weather in Germany as you know is as punctual as the traffic, thus, you're not in for much of a surprise, but one thing is clear, it's a place for love, good and bad, a place for creation, good and bad, perhaps the whole world began from there, what do you know. I'm now as I often am, without a single moment of peace and quiet, going through the day as if trying to conquer one giant wave, and then another and when you're about to reach the peak of the chiaroscuro in the morning tide, there's yet another wave. I'm looking at this as a period in which I'm only studying life, as if such a thing could be studied, but more than that, I'm very afraid of writing, thus I'm confined to very short pieces at a time, usually writing anonymously for people who meant the world to me, even if just for some hours, this is one of the advantage of being young again, you live out of fragments, no longer counting the days and the hours, thinking that the years are not really flying sidewards.

It's a remedy against this mortal despair. To feel like life hasnt started yet, like it's all the time starting, and yet once again, over and over. I'm trying to find out what it means to live without fear, the concept is totally absurd to me perhaps only because it's nothing of a concept but something so absolutely simple and concrete that can't be grasped without a certain dose of the irrational. I'm glad to find out that you've found love, or better, that it's found you, and well, no better place you've chosen for yourself I think; as for me, I felt a turbulent tide of love in the past weeks since my arrival in Bogota with someone who for a change, happens to live in Germany, you would like him very much, soft spoken and talkative, sophisicated but not demonically intelligent, therefore manageable, not too glamorous and not ordinary altogether. But once again, like in my four or five instances of love, a total failure, perhaps the enamourement might not have to do so much with the person as it does with the impossibility, with the endless pleasure of an even higher hilltop. I however felt more alive than I did in previous years, suffocated by this warm air that grew faster than the air outside so that the chemical imbalance beings to asffixiate up to a point in which you begin to let go. I can't deny that I felt sorry about this but at the very least I'm able to write again. As you know well, Bogota chokes me, it's a deadly landscape for anything that has to do with me, I feel like I'm not given a single moment to stop, rest, think, consider, analyse, etc., and therefore my words and my deeds become erratic, dumb and completely lacking in horizons, I should learn my lesson at last and never come back, perhaps one day I'll be strong enough to do that. Boxes are not a bad metaphor for what it means to be here, always moving boxes, from one head to another, just right now my aunt passed by and told me I'm a fucking authistic child, and well, this is perhaps not a lie. As you know, I have a lot of boxes, spread through different continents, houses, men, etc. Like a friend of mine said to me in a metaphor not without the rudest irony: "You're like the Coco Chanel of homosexuals and intellectuals. Coco Chanel was a master, a master in everything, there was one only thing that could unnerve her and paralyze her, this thing was love".



Deadly gifts of God - מתן מוות ויהונתן

How false can a poem really be? That is the question that he asked himself at the moment of an intuitive observation, it was not only that he was a complete inept in the description of landscapes - with the sole exception of heaven; but also that the addressee of the poem had vanished from sight and had packed his tongue inside the memory of another man, who himself one day packed in a suitcase a few thousand days and set to sail through the land. Alcohol does not mix well with both anger and atonement, especially when the boat is boarded only by strangers and the waters more turbulent than the womb of the whale. Perhaps it was not even necessary to have gone that far, with one hour it should have sufficed, for the whole of eternity to break into tears and bow to the unpretentious but vigilant watch of that night, on a 15th of December, in a big city, in that far-away land, even though that from my country, all lands are far away and reachable only at the gun point of exile. Ambition however had won the day, followed by wrath, and then shipwreck, and while those sins, even the shipwreck, are not punishable by the laws of man, the fateful decree of the deity was to drown in a glass full of tears, a glass so small than not even one finger of the hand would fit in without spilling the precious liquid. What a strange punishment for a single fit of rage, he would think for himself, but he wasn't altogether surprised, whole kingdoms had been lost for much less, one single sacrifice bought at the wrong hour or a peg of wheat protruding out of a spotless altar would have been enough to bring the plague to entire cities. How was he supposed to drown inside the little glass? One had heard stories about parents asking their children to drown in a little pond in the street on the Day of the Atonement, or even worse, to choose at gun point which one of his two children should be not sacrificed but gunned down and thrown into a pit, but a little glass? What was really the science behind it all? After all he had cried for a whole night with a wounded leg in a deserted street that once had seemed beautiful and pleasurable, and yet, still it wouldn't fit into the glass. But he had been entirely mistaken all the way, on the first night, even during the first hour, when he first tasted that infinite joy from the open-edged glass, he had already choked, and that's why he saw everything in such glee, he had already crossed the threshold and condemned himself, in that sense, his salvation was ascertained but it was revoked in the moment he decided to slam in the face of his own gift of God, an earthly and mundane gift, and not because it was a gift, but because he had been self-righteous, thinking that with only one simple gift, he would be able to win the favours of that soft-spoken devil, oblivious of the fact that even at the expense of a hundred calves, the city was meant to be destroyed anyway. He has drowned already in the first hour, everything else was just a post-mortem effect, another consequence of heaven. The only lesson to be learnt is that you can't bribe the deadly gifts of God, otherwise they wouldn't be given to you in the first place. Thus, the poem was not false, even though it was not beautiful, only because the moment of the possession, had already passed.


I am letting
the image disappear
into the fickle
out of a glass
in me

an unlikely choice
of number
for solitude
the sight
that already forgot
the cruelty
of the eye

this time
a morning
of sun
in the stomach
of the pilgrim
the words
of the stranger

but merciless
the hour
the morning
that wept
the silence
without the dance

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jotting down a dream...

To M., K., J.

"Quietly work through the night and advance in the direction of your purest white dreams..." -M.

"You're the Coco Chanel of homosexuals, I think. Coco Chanel was a master, the only thing that could unnerve her... was love..." -M.

"A hundred-and-thirty five years ago Rahel Varnhagen jotted down the following dream: she had died and gone to heaven, together with her friends Bettina von Arnim and Caroline von Humboldt. To relieve themselves of the burdens they had acquired in their lives, the three friends assigned themselves the task of inquiring into the worst things they had experienced. Rahel thus asked: Did you know disappointed love? The two other women broke into tears, and all three thus relieved this burden from their hearts. Rahel asked further: Did you know disloyalty? Sickness? Worry? Anxiousness? Each time the women said yes, they cried, and again all the three were relieved of their burdens. Finally Rahel asked: Did you know disgrace? As soon as this word had been spoken, there was a hushed silence, and the two friends took their distance from Rahel and looked at her in a strange and disturbed manner. Then did Rahel know that she was entirely alone and that this burden could not be taken away from her heart. And then she awoke". -Hannah Arendt, "Juden in der Welt von Gestern: Anlaesslich Stefan Zweig", in "Sechs Essays", 1948

As I awoke from that only night of undisappointed love, a stench I don't remember of what, hovered over my lips and my eyes, it could have been a dream, had it not been repeated twice and with the same consequences; a maddening intoxication of the senses that danced with a tune of beauty and loss, of its own accord, so that in spite of myself, the night had not been the dream and the dream had not been the morning that followed from the merciless command of time and solitude, to board a train on your own armed with nothing but images that only vaguely fit the splattered light casted by the stars above along the timid drops of tears falling as black rain into the transparent asphalt that grew faster than the distance and with the same slow movement of abandonment, a musical chiaroscuro, perhaps dotted on a piano in the absence of a possible spectator, other than the good God, picking up from the stacks of hay, the sins committed that day and bringing them back to heaven to cleanse them from conceitedness and throw them back into the world, the morning after that, fresh as a breeze, into the hands of the waiters, in the train station and the bus stops, so that nothing gets lost, everything is returned to us, even the worst evil. It had not been a dream because otherwise I wouldn't have seen Godot placing the most gentle kiss in the forehead of the man that stole away from the night, in the embrace of the young men, clad with scarves and glasses in the hand and smiles at the height of the chin, as if living out of the scrapbook of an infamous painter rising to prominence on account of the shameless indiscretion of his work. The images moved not like shadows in a printed glass but more like ink dissolving unto water, running back and forth chasing the object of his most intimate yet untimely and unfulfilled affections, in between the cruelty of dancing and the silent imprecations of faces that bore price tags in lieu of a mouth that could for once devour an instant of love with the zeal of Cronos swallowing up his children, just like a lover, whose moment of justice is achieved when the whole world is consumed under the shortest glance into the fresh and naked skin of a neck or a wrist visible through the trenchcoat letting itself fall from the shoulders at the request of a turbulent hurricane rising from the belly up to the height of an eyelid being inspected carefully from across the table behind a pair of spectacles and a cup of coffee already cold. There was no disgrace in those perfect moments, there was no indiscretion, nothing to relieve or to release, then it could not have been a dream, because he was not entirely alone, in fact, he was not alone.

That the morning had been the dream and not the night is something that I could only accept over the course of the week following from that, and it was only then, that I told Godot my dream, before I jotted it down; he listened to me with paucity but hinted that he was being awaited elsewhere and couldn't spend the whole morning with me trying to separate the images of the night from the dream of the morning, trying to dissect through the exasperation and the glee; had I been a painter, I would have changed the music and the scenery, I wouldn't have cried then, I wouldn't have angered, I wouldn't have shamed. He pointed to me in his wisdom that my problem in separating the dream from the image, it was something that clearly had to do with the public; just like it was in the past when often I felt unable to write because of the cruel and scholarly inspecting eye of philosophers and readers, dead and alive, standing behind me in my desk, in the city of Jerusalem, hiding the trees at the church behind an ugly and humongous supermarket window, I felt often unable to write in the morning as well as in the night, because I felt observed, observed by other writers. Now the day had become a weak epiphany, a weak celebration of passion, as if the feeling of being observed by the lover in the most private and intimate moments of the day would save your soul from being debilitated, deranged and splattered on a glass for public view in a laboratory. The thought in itself was absurd but it was only the confirmatio of my obsession, the starvation from proper nourishment and the overflow of possible scenarions in which one craved to be seen by the other, and to no avail, perpetuating the uselessness of the day hours and the endless craving not for the other or his lips or his arms, the craving of being watched by him over and over, through the day, in the most immaculate and sinless perfection that no god in his right senses would have tolerated. One has to realize, that aestheticism nonwithstanding (and there's no aestheticism without cruelty being inflicted on oneself), no perfection can be loved by human heart, unless it's that of the tragic hero, as dead as he is unreachable, or instead, that of a pagan god alone. So unbefitting for people who grew up in Jerusalem, trained since childhood in the adoration of the most absolute, lonely and imperfect gods. The kind of gods that created the world on their own, at best an angel chattering here and there, how desperate and guilty is that!

But all in all, small talk or not, because of Jerusalem, I remembered the particulars of the dream, since it had taken place there in one morning of the summer, and I remembered I was weeping, but I can't recall why, perhaps during that part of the dream in which I broke in tears, I was still trapped in the frenzy of the night or counting the lights in the train trying to reverse all the hours, in a solemn attempt to deny everything, trying to run away from an evil seven-legged monster not without offering him my own leg to be chained in advance. There were precisely three people in the dream, three people that in themselves had been dreamt once, they had never been friends as much as they had traveled with me to places more dangerous than comfortable, where people had nothing to offer but the things that sheltered them from the perils of the world, such as laughter and a certain unsuitable sincerity of mind and I wonder why they would have liked to strand in Jerusalem that morning; perhaps to try and find with me again the grave of Else Lasker-Schueler that I sought after for six years and then at last got to know because of a postcard? I feel a bit sorry that there's nothing else about the dream that I can recall, maybe that was the whole point, that not even the present can be conquered so completely as if it were a prize delivered on account of glorious deeds, nothing ever remains, we're ought to respond even though we will be changed. Perhaps the only difference between the dream and the night, it is that the dream would be easier to achieve, and that the night, half-way distant, is already mixed with the blood.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


To J.


Everything seems right in the world, if just for a moment, biffurcating into the night and yet it's still at the peak of the day hours, more like aurora. These seems to be time ahead to fulfill all the hours, almost as if there were no time at all, with the sole exception of the tiredness, hovering to heavily, like a wet feather over the palm of the hand; the same sense of admiration, yet so exasperated. The hours blend in, like transparent blocks. In spite of the eyelids, treacherous as always, underslept, the skin stares into the sun, for the first time in many a week, vehemently, wishing to be consumed, to be coveted, as if by a warm burning fog. The time also plays a role in the consumption, the waiting becomes so patient as if it were no waiting or procrastinating at all but merely another essential form of being, whilst at the same time, the pulsations of the hand, the desires of the ear, speak so differently, they've become completely consumed and consumated and burnt down, the freshness has been swallowed, in the course of the hours that did pass, even unto death, and death as such is impatient, being too tained by the still quiet, or rather the fear thereof.


The calm is nowhere near approaching, but the storm recedes back while water's still being washed, further and further away, like stains in the sand, stains of oil perhaps. The sight is magical, twisted, nothing is visible, everything is essential, the crucial colors are absent, undecipherable, starved from lust, the slowest fire and traces of Godot made with a flambeau in the cleanest snow; they melt more rapidly than they're visible, it would be perhaps timelier to shipwreck. !If only this death of suger would reveal itself sooner! I look at the whole world from outside, it appear much less chaotic and threatening than I had once felt, just two lines above, all I see is the table, without cloth but immaculate white, unblemished, only tarnished by the cubes of sugar, helplessly unused, and unorderly the sheets of paper, clean from blame, but not from sin, like the chest of a man in his bravest youth, invisible to the armpits, without this curious stench of parfum, forehead sweat and tar. The image is so entirely harmless, like a beggar or a lonely woman in the masterhand of Pisarro; they're held momentarily and into infinity and without telling their story, lest they ruin the indiscretion in the work of art, the very vows of sacrality in this rape, Dina and Daphne, disfigured, transmogrify into black rain.


The time vanished so swiftly, stole away from the knife, suddenly the suffocation stops at the height of the lips and protracts down to the smallest toe; how it's still sunny, yet sweetly melancholy and cloudy, that I don't know, it was like a vision.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

On Writing

It is always the same shadow that from time to time hovers over me in circles and profusions, though I had forgotten about it for long, the inability remains fixed like a postcard, the sensuous desire to take hold of the present, in a way it could be said that the author, in particular the modern author, takes upon himself a role similar to that of the photographer, foremost the awareness that all the raw materials he's working with are nothing but dead. There's in this respect a certain wisdom in philosophy and in all articulate and normative forms of cultural criticism and it is if anything, the crystal clear knowledge that all knowledge of the present tense is immediately condemned to a framework of reference simultaneously (and at that absolutely) past and future, not one single scenario of history can be saved with only one hand, not even the Crucifixion itself.

That's the worse mistake in writing, the enamourement with things that are already dead, that are no longer in your possession and that are completely bereft of a willing ability to respond to the calls of literature, being this said, it's of course clear at this point that it's not possible to leave the claims of literature without becoming unpoetic, that is, the claim of literature, in particular solitude, the solitude not only in writing for silent and invisible witness but the loneliness of experience, the impossibility of real expression (otherwise one wouldn' t write) is precisely what constitutes the practice of literature; any breach to this unspoken agreement would mean immediately, leaving the realm of art altogether. You can't bring yourself to love and write about what's being loved as it goes through the process of turning a solid sentiment into a liquid feeling and then into mere unconscious steam reaching for the higher and higher depth that opens upwards and never recedes. The act of writing has to involve by the most sensical definition, a pure act of loss in concrete acts but with firm consciousness, otherwise the memory would play no role in the recreation of fiction.

Philosophy must be always present as it constitutes an inquiry into the thing that is being known, however art can never afford this cruel vice lest it incur in the mortal sin of forgetting its role within chains of meaning, literature can never be impatient, certainly not about itself, for it is risk about the world, its only form of reliance, and not certainty as such, otherwise there were indeed programatic assumptions about how literature is ought to be written. Impatience is a vile act for a writer because impatience in creation (unlike God and eternity) means only that you are waiting, and the waiting itself is a symptom of words, sounds and movements of the lips that have ultimately failed to deliver, thus, the waiting is an act of surrender and supplication before silence, there can be no literature in silence - there is no such a thing as an empty room, there is no such a thing as a room without sound (there's still the air), there's no such a thing as earthly space without color, without content and without matter. So correct had been Susan Sontag in saying that "I want to learn to be alone, to find it nourishing, and not just a mere wait". There's no literature while waiting (that's the domain of theology and philosophy), waiters' writing is not literature, it is just a remedy against madness.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Letter to Yussuf Prince of Thebes

Dearest Yussuf,

It's been such a long time since I wrote you last, at least what you can call a real letter, and not just broken pieces of information in an erratic fix of the pen and the hand. You're so often in my thoughts, in my conversations with people, in a way I would like to transmit to every person I meet in the world what you've meant for me, what it means for me in terms of art and philosophy to have met you, I would like to find words, but those words are still not invented, or if they exist, their meaning is so big that it wouldn't be appropriate to use them. Whenever something remarkable happens in my life, it is only to you that I can write, because these things that I'm telling, the story I'm telling, is something charged for me with a meaning very different than the meaning attached to ordinary objects, it's this predicament in which you're often left, when you're unable to leave completely the sphere of art, you become just too conscious of beauty, you're soaked in the essence of things, you can't avoid the horrible time pressing against your chest like a knife. It's this guilt, this endless guilt, about being alive, you wake up one morning, you're confused, you wish nothing but death, this wish as a sentiment is the only thing that can free you from the chains of ordinary life, this death wish, that is your token of loyalty with the present, with the brutal present, always presence, present.

The encounter with human beings is for people like us the highest expression of one's own power, this is where real talent for art and thought is best casted off into the world, encounters are the most important thing, also the most fragile and the most dangerous. I met Jonathan last week, after a week of long conversations over the internet about the most varied topics that extended well into the night, there was something so discreet and so honest about him, something that again I can't put into words, some melancholy abandonment that weighed heavily upon the sentences and the dots, there was this sentiment of sharing an absence of something that we both knew, perhaps it was an abscence of love, that slowly built up and conjured into a sense of possibility, this language so intense and so dense yet colloquial, there's no adequate terminology to describe that, it's something very similar to religion, I'm reminded of Margarete Susman and the little essays about Bloch and the buchlein "Vom Sinn der Liebe". Because of the horrible and tormented ways into which my life has unfolded for the last five years, I had forgotten that this language was still possible, the only referents I had for such possibilities were you, my only confident, and Veronica, my friend who committed suicide a week before my birthday in 2009, another artist, one of the few persons I know who lived her life so completely inside art, who never left aesthetics, you see, Veronica reminds me so much of you and me, in that our understanding of beauty comes from a very real experience in life that is not at all contemplative; our understanding of beauty and love has to do with a lack of something, with the fact that we've experienced so little beauty in the world, we remember it with just too much strength, we know very well the ideal position and perfection of beauty because we're so far removed from it in many ways, we're simple spectators.

Because I had renounced this idea to the realm of writing alone, I was so scared the day when I met him, because now I'm clearly assured that I don't cope with reality very well, even though I have to cope with such ugly faces of reality, dealing with money, family, the cold blood of academic people, being a gay man in the search of sex and pleasure, etc and I cope relatively well but when it has to do with my inner world of beauty and sentiments, the slightest breach in the plot, the simplest word, the most innocent behaviour, holds the power to hurt my feelings infinitely and throw me into the darkest abyss of melancholy and seamless pain. You know, people often say I'm a very brave person, but the truth is, I live in incredible fear, I go through life and the world frightened to death everyday, every moment, perhaps that's the price you have to pay for certain courage, to live in fear. I didn't know what would await me ahead, and I was so very scared, and then I arrived to the Italian cafe where we had agreed to meet, I waited in the outside being almost sure that for some reason he wouldn't show up, I've gone through this endless times, especially when I was younger, I remember all the time I spent waiting for many a gentleman, the time I spent dressing up and thinking everything out to the most intrincate detail, the combination of the color, the hair, the bag, the book I'd carry in my bag, how I'd sit, what I'd say, and then suddenly I spent beautiful hours alone, imagining that something tragic had happened, that for some reason they were just unable to come. He texted me and I found out he was already inside this beautiful place, he was warmer and more beautiful than I had thought, there was this beautiful smile, and everything was so casual, like a little chanson, I felt so happy that I was completely unable to swallow my food because I didn't want to miss one single second of the conversation, and as you know, conversation, that's my only real talent, my only natural talent, everything else is just a product of the melancholy caused by not being able to engage in conversations with people as much as I would like to, every philosophical hint, every work of art observed, every poem jotted down, it is only a failed attempt at a conversation, that's why it must be put to paper, in a way, it must be killed. I didn't want to miss one single detail because somewhere in my soul I felt this was about to end already, that it would be my lot and parcel in life to live out of some very brief moments, like a curse.

But yet the night was so different, it was like being with you, there were so many hours, so many beautiful hours, one more beautiful than the hour that just passed, and yet another hour more, more beautiful than the whole world, and then more hours, more beautiful than Paris, more beautiful than Jerusalem, more beautiful than anything you had ever seen, we sipped martinis like nectar from powerful elixirs made by gods in faraway Oriental kingdoms, walking down the street at night amidst the jolts of the traffic and the loud noises of people; I remember at some point he went to the bathroom and I was left there alone, staring across the table, to his half empty glass, to his jacket, and to the shadows around him and I thought for myself with a smile, this is the most beautiful hour that ever existed; of course there were other beautiful hours in the past, beautiful nights that also came with horrible mornings when the delusion had passed and nothing was left, but it is my belief that every moment of beauty you experience in the world changes you qualitatively, it changes not only the future but also how you look at the past from that moment onwards, the details are not important, but there's an essential change in you. I thought, this is my glory and my victory, this is my conquista of the world, this is a moment like when I threw your party in Jerusalem, the moment in which I'm king and lord of the whole world, everything that is of importance is happening there in that moment. But the night still kept going, until the very end, there was nothing sexual about it, but there were lots of lips and hands, kisses in the forehead, the long embraces, things that look like love, the dancing, the jokes, the drinks, the soft touches, the irony, it is like being with somebody you've known for your whole life, the melancholy in common but also the sense of life, the risk, the madness, the vertigo, the fall... All together.

For other people, and perhaps also for him, it's just a night out, a night of drinks, a good "date", but for me it was like the confirmation of everything I've been and done, the aesthetic moment of life par excellence, the moment when Godot arrives, the real Godot, arriving unannounced. I really didn't want the night to end, I wanted that night to go on forever... When it ended, even though it had been so perfect and beautiful, I went home and cried the whole night, listening to Edith Piaf and wondering when will I have again a night like that, when will I conquer the world again only for myself? When will I look at the eyes of glory? You can't imagine my sadness after this carnival of emotions, it was not only the cafe but the party after that and the dancing, the lips, the hands, the embraces, the little fights, the tears, the strong emotions, very strong emotions from both actors, if it had been not something real but a theater play, you'd think it's Waiting for Godot, they're both waiting, so tired from life yet still so young, so full of life and love, so full of hope, the darkness of the night becomes confused with the shiniest morning you ever saw, like the summer in the beach of Tel Aviv, like Katherina and Ari at the Scottish bar sipping martinis by the bar, yet all surrounded by so much sadness and decadence, the endless drinking, the smiles confused with the pain from inside, the desire to be free and to be loved. It was so beautiful Katherina that I only remember small details, I don't even quite remember what he looks like and why I found him so beautiful but what's impressed a watermark in me is how I felt, how my eyes saw the world during those eternal hours that compress all of human history. It's been so many years since I felt anything like that, and he, well, it's a sad story, you know, he lives in Germany and is here only for a few weeks, and speaking of failed love, he had a relationship of five years with a Frenchman who just dumped him without any explanation, so clearly he's love handicapped and I think you and me know very well how much one suffers from unlove. So he definitely can't be mine, not geographically and not mentally, it's just a connection through the soul, very fragile but yet strong as diamonds... At the same time he pours his kindness to me in such a beautiful way, the letters and the calls, the conversations on how alive he feels around me, how contented, the plans for the future, what we would do if we'd go to London, or to Berlin, or which parties we would attend in Barcelona and in Tel Aviv, the meeting with my friend Katherina, the paintings she would make for him, the long nights of martinis or porto or whiskey with vermouth. And the kinder he is, the more I hurt, because I so much don't want to lose him, but even if so, what he doesn't know is that after that night, I'll never lose him, he's already in my skin. Everyday I'm more and more scared, scared from life, but if anything, if all this suffering, all these horrible days in Colombia, all the cocaine and all the pain and the silence and the loneliness, if all of it was the price I had to pay for that night, it was completely worth it and I'm willing to pay twice that price. It's all a fantasy, but yet how beautiful it is when you learn to dream again, something inside you is changed, love always makes you beautiful and good.

Time is a monster my dear, a horrible seven-legged monster, because yes, it's been so long since I last saw you, I don't even remember you physically so well, but I do remember my feelings for you, the uniqueness of this friendship that should last for a hundred years more and after that too, you know that you're so important for me, you're present in everything I do, even when I do nothing, or when I do evil things that hurt me. I definitely think we've grown into different persons but yet my dear, our friendship is the same, it's always going to be, because its roots are so strong, not like futile street talk, it's so completely rooted in beauty. We're different people indeed, I see it in my face, in my hands, in my philosophical style even, less radical than it used to be but as you can tell, more sophisticated, less German and less Jewish, more open to the world and to the rawest experience than to philosophical categories and boxes, closer to Andy Warhol than to Hegel. But this is a process, and we're going through it, trying to not miss one single day in it. You see, I saw myself as a philosopher back then in Jerusalem and not anymore, if anything, today I can tell you the only thing that interests me is conversations, everything else, the works of art (and not philosophical treatises) are simply witnesses to the failure in conversating with the world. It's always a matter of money because well it's not only that we're poor but we don't know how to live, we want to live so much and too much, everything at once and in one day, we never learn the lessons, that's why we can never save. But be assured that we'll meet again, I promised you I'd come back to Europe and I will, that day is everyday closer now, but I won't tell you much about it, just one day I'll be at your door with a bottle of something and everything will be like it always was.

I have to work a lot at the moment with some English classes, I'm so unfit for work and life, I hate every moment of it, but I need money to spend expensive nights out with Jonathan, therefore I have to do it, but not for long. My intellectual development is now very slow but steady, I read novels, very modern novels, learning about how people think life today, I read a lot about modern art, about commercial art, each day I feel I'm getting somewhere, but I find it very hard to write, except when I write him, you know me, I can only write from a real source of life, I don't understand abstract writing, that's just so stupid. You're right, remember Virginia Woolf saying "you can never have peace in life by avoiding life... you have to look at life in the face, always in the face" and I think this is exactly what Jetztzeit means after all. Men also like me a lot at the moment, maybe it's only because they detect that I can't like anyone back right now, my mind is in the search for something too big, not too big a love because that can kill, but too big a person to love a little, you know, there's this song that says... "the world is not enough, but it is such a perfect place to start", this is what happens to us, we demand from life more than what it can give and thus we suffer, but we must do it, there's no other way, there must be a radical instinct to life, otherwise it's just empty time. I loved so much the beatiful things you said about me and my gift for conversation, perhaps the most beautiful things ever said to me. About Coco Chanel, maybe another day I'll write you more, but you MUST read her biography, she reminds me of you so much, such a talented and strong lonely woman, so powerful and brilliant yet so weak and nervous and lonely, so hurt from love, full of life for parties and nights, so full of glamour, and one thing I understood: to be glamorous you need to be a lonely individual, there's no other way to stand out from the crowds, glamour is the most extreme form of sadness, always remember that. That's why Hollywood can never be glamorous, they're only rich.

Out of Time

To K., M. and J.

It is only when we let go of ourselves, when the space occupied by our bodies doesn't suffice, it is only then that we become aware of the cruel nature of time, it presses against our chest like a knife, like a vest of the ungodly and the invisible, protecting from loss and oblivion everything essential, everything that cannot be remembered. Every moment of the hour signifies the madness, one feels like he wants to cut the flesh, to bruise it, to destroy the body, in order to let everything trapped within run free of its own accord, to reach for the essential in the shoulders and the arms and the hands and the lips of dew, to escape from the suffocating constrictions of the jackets but also of the houses, the coffee tables and the telephones, the will to surrender falls from the eye of the observer just like a waterfall trying to encounter along its passing, a gulf to embrace, the little caress of the rocks and the crystal finger tips of the algae and the sweetness of the night soaking the ice so completely so that it melts into the limb of a hill, coming closer to the water in a failed suicidal attempt, throwing itself overhead, dancing without feet and with one only melody - the absence.

It is only in this loss that we let go of the watches on the wrists and on the walls, the watches of the eyes and the palm of the hand, everything is so absolutely present, this presence so swiftly vanishing, dissolving unto itself, occupying all the space available in the universe until it can no longer be seen, it has swallowed the stars and the planets but also the pulsations of the stomach and the movements of the hand; that's how it must have felt during the Creation, free of sin and free of guilt, without anxiety, without the absence, without absconding or retreating, so completely free. Only in the most cruel moments of impatience, we're reminded in deliberate conspicuousness, of the gifts of Paradise, but without the innocence, we've been given our passions instead; we carry them through, offer them to our fellowmen are a gift, there's no visible world without them, there's no reason to despair, in the wait, that's where time is... Impatience is sinful, it's a dried up well, every moment of it, fixes anew the course of the waters, it's a bleeding tree of life. You begin wondering, you wouldn't know where to go afterwards, cling onto the idea that there's a home, in arm, or in a shoulder, but you're still looking for the keys even though the doors are slammed open before you, while the portico was set on fire, you wouldn't know where to run, but you're already inside, that's why it burns so badly in the eye, it's too late, you're already running out of time, it presses against your chest with the bad aftertaste of loss, but the essential, like the waters, will always flow in you, even when you change into an older skin or possess another well.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Morning Passages"

To J.


Your flickering eyes
Small birds suckling the nectars.

When you wept
The king hearkened not.

When you fell
The world did not return
To void-and-chaos.

Mephiboshet, you dreamt
Of a more innocent friendship.

You sickened at the wisdom
Of the ancient serpent,

O Son of Jonathan!

(Zelda Mikhovsky-Schneerson, translation is mine)

"I want to learn to be alone, to find it nourishing and not just a mere wait"
-Susan Sontag

The scenery seemed to have changed abruptly at the realization that there is no such a thing as an empty room, he conjured up images of Abyssinia, everything disappeared under the spell of unlikely sights. He sat across the blank page in the attempt to write something for himself that would not grow into a will of consolation, counting the hours on and on, imagining that that night would never end and that it would be possible to take posession of it well into the next morning, and the morning after and yet another morning after that. He could remember every detail, every practical detail, the journey from home all the way to the wooden panels that furnished the walls and the well-known inability to swallow the freshly baked goods so that he would not miss one single second of the conversation. Then strolling around the city jolts, the pleasure he could often take in the noise and the evening traffic as a mere spectator in the tireless search for a moment of beauty with himself; the fearless panic that devoured courageously the tips of the fingers and bruised the skin from beneath the fibers of tweed and wool, the unwillingness to let go of the scarf and other pieces of clothing; it was almost a matter of shame, this almost sensuous desire to want not to be seen in any way, hiding from the viewer across the table, the fibrilous pulsations of the blood running through the neck back and forth in between brain and heart, the delicate wrists that could have been made out of fresh bread and not of old flesh, even the eyes too eager to look always elsewhere, a rather frantic desire at mere contemplation, and that total avoidance of oneself.

Yet all of the essential details were elusive through and through, they seemed to form knots at the height of the throat, that were pulled back from displaying, by a forceful and naive serenity that rested around the belly but were never to be seen. The greatest gift that one receives from a stranger is always that warm sensation that there's no destination in plain sight, that the person, in spite of his covetousness, is not willing to let himself be seen at all, that absolute solitude is the greatest evening companion when it's shared with somebody else, that every fabric of the conversation is yet another desperate attempt to cling forcefully to one's solitude. This is how we set ourselves to spy on our fellow human beings in the companion of yet another veteran soldier, to realize that we have somewhat aged, and that it is a good thing because one of the most merciless demands of beauty is that it be contemplated with glee and love only after the moment when it's no longer in your posession, when it's no longer a presence, when its symbols become undechiperable to the hand that drew them and carelessly casted them into the world. This type of beauty has manifold shapes but in common between them all, it is only the fact that they deliberately avoid perfection and completion; the simplicity of the interminability resides precisely in that this beauty cannot be wholly grasped when observed from the outside, lest it become a corpse, a corpulent structure of dead matter that can no longer be touched or felt by the bare hand of the passer-by.

What a great melancholy there is, I thought for myself, in that kind of beauty in which you're allowed to participate but yet cannot keep even the simplest bread crumb, used-up napkin or vanishing cube of ice for yourself, "It seems that he was permitted to find the Archimedean point only under condition that he would use it against himself". Every form of modern art in the world is aimlessly attempting to do just that, to cling onto the rawest materials of our own consumption in order to create a memory that just like in classical art, could last forever, yet the enterprise is so completely futile because those are memories that we no longer want to keep; in the moment they are turned into memories they should be washed off from the basin at the top of the repository of things we find beautiful and not. There are elixirs too, easily available, sometimes in the shape of a glass but often times also in the shapes of faces and hands and strokes of the hair, elixirs that make ugliness disappear and turn every single second of the day into that kind of beauty we would like to participate in, joining this party of the dead, shortlisting the information and selecting what we find most nourishing. It is like the metaphor of loving someone at the airport, through the window panes that separate the different waiting rooms; imagining scenes of suffering from one to the next station of the Cross, out of the simplest glass of whiskey held by the hand, out of the watch missing from the wrist or the ring from the finger, thinking that maybe it was stolen by a lover or asked to be turned in after a sentimental disaster. This is a rather voyeuristic price to pay, that of the artist and the writer, the infinitely aesthetic pleasure of experiencing love and desire from the vantage point of the most absolute and impossible distance, there's no pity and no mercy in this loving observation, it's riddled by the most objective form of cruelty. The unwillingness to interfere in the slow lane of biological processes, avoiding the nearness of the lips with the only intention to avoid not a bad aftertaste but with the firm resolution to supress and surpass all guilt. Guilt must be supressed insofar as it is rememberable.

This could happen to anyone and anywhere, the geography is irrelevant when it comes to anatomy, this is no common sense like the astronomy of the planets, but not altogether irrational; the present is entirely dead just one minute thereafter, how can five years be rendered irrelevant by one single moment? It's easier to cancel out five years than one single moment, because the nature of time itself makes the momentarily far more fixed in our minds in the sense that attempts to understand what is just happening and suddenly has passed, are to no avail. If I had any talents with painting, the landscape of that very night, it would be more like a double-faced muse bleeding to death with a glass and a smitten smile in between her finger tips. To write even, it is like a little death, it would steal away everything that is essential to tell about a story and that's when a teller knows that he's ought to stop at the expense of making up a fairy tale that could be far more convincing that a list of deeds in the Stations of the Cross, for there's nothing more brutal and unlawful than stealing from oneself, from one's own pleasure, from one's own righteous sense of enjoyment and imperfect beauty, it's tantamount to observing one's own death. The next morning thus, was not different than it should have been, it wasn't entirely free of guilt or consumption, one day less of sun for you and one more for the world, the continuity had been broken like in every other possible art work, life hadn't changed and that's where the cruelty of making works of art out of such raw material resides, for the creator - it's God's own loneliness after the wrongdoings of the creation - life is not bereft of its own autonomous powers. Philosophers of history would however point a finger to the fallacy: Everything in the world is qualitatively changed, everyday, by every person, by every casual encounter, even in spite of the domineering fear, the fear of the stranger for each and every one of his own kind. The next morning was fresh like the beginning of the tides in summertime, it felt opulent, scandalously privileged, full of frenzy and bright as lust. That's why the story of a night not always needs to be told as such, this is the privilege of those who seek no consolation from life, and whose guiding principle is more risk than patience.

"If someone comes and declares "This will be the historical redeemer of mankind, I know its name" - then we might easily identify him as the prophet of the false Messiah. The prophet of the true Messiah remains silent. He does not know. But he knows one thing - that one should not say that the Messiah will never come. One should never let the empty chair be occupied by a pretender (and every occupant is a pretender), but it is better if one does not remove the empty chair. My conviction, or rather, my feeling, suggests that I leave the chair there, in the middle of the room at the head of the table, where it remains all the time exposed in its emptiness. The chair speaks to the denizens of the absolute present honestly only in its emptiness. My intuition suggests that only emptiness is fullness for the moderns, that there's no other kind of hope beyond hope, at least not for those who assume the position of reflected postmodernity".
-Agnes Heller

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Discovery of Heaven

To Harry Mulisch

Now that you're far, from the questions asked by man, I cannot help but wondering what that heaven looks like, whether there are similarities at all between the rows of houses and the canals underneath, whether you can hear the waters all the while wars take place elsewhere. I wonder if the land was finally born in you, if there's any lands! If I could wish for something today, is for you to tell me that heaven looks exactly like the earth, that there's no other life, that the bricks smell the same when they're punctured by the bayonets. Are you still writing? Is it allowed to write? Sometimes it seems to me as if the earth is a heaven turned upside down, we are hanging from above glued to a crutch looking out into the vastness of the universe, as if the earth is that void that we see down below when we reach for the Wadden sea and imagine that that's where the world ends. I wonder if heaven has names, if heaven has hatred, because otherwise, what would be then of the language of love? I wonder what they think of the churches, what they think of the dead, that are buried somewhere, like Our Lord, that could never rise to heaven, because there's just too much soil sheltering them from this absurd vertiginous freedom, too much water dividing the places and the faces. My gut feeling says that heaven is very different, and that I wish not to go, that there're no super powers, that there're no higher truths, that you're just waiting for us there, to tell us to come back, to ride on the next bus, to land on the Zuiderduintjes, to go fishing for a while, to end at the same place where blue and white become one. That is why you painted it like this, like an afternoon, somewhere, in an apartment block, in those ugly streets of Rotterdam.


I wished not go
Into the foreign land
I knew not
Where to find
The gardens
In its womb
Should I not
Could I but wish
What it looked like
In that point of the summer
Jotted with a brush
Patting fields of flowers
Distant from the houses
The dreams
That I harbored
Since that childhood day
When I saw the land
When I felt the skin
Of the bruised earth
Growing under my feet
Regaling me
With showers of weak light
When will I see the land?
Will I be able to take pleasure in you?
Answer my call!
The land never forsaken
All at my bequest
One whole country for a child
When will I see you again?
When, Netherland?


Literature that is no longer readable
At the expectation
Of faintest love
The desperate agreement
With the laws of the world
Empty the sketchbooks
Ransacked by words of the hand
By movements of the fingertips
A vast field of greenery and flies
Telegrams, without address
Without recipient
By an unknown sender
Too much loyalty
In impossible faces of men
Too much serendipity
To sell for friendship
To expect reward
A silence more forceful
That rustling jolts
All the more forgetful
Swallowed by rivers
Watching over the planes
From the bottom of the waters
The legs bruised not by rocks
But by the soft touch of the fish
The algae
The softest pasture
Fallen into disgrace
In a winter morning
Next to a violin
In the abandonment
Of beauty
A lonely mirror
Trying to catch a glimpse of the woman
In another room of the palace
Imagining the vanity
Of aging gracefully
Brushing the hair
With linens of gold
Praying for innocence
While devouring the flesh
Of a sinful soldier
Or another murderer


A sailor in the mud
Taking shelter from the truth
With yet another bullet
The little men
Made out of paper notes
Beheaded by the child
Unable to understand
The language
Of the poem jotted down
By an English woman
During a farewell afternoon
By the banks of the river
No longer watery of frost
Laden with a corpse
Followed by another
In unison
A new song
Not for anyone dead
But for the mightiest deed
Of our son of man
Of our bullets
Our children
Of bayonets


I am unable to dance to the tune
That smells beneath the earth
That hampers one from death
It is a long deterred muse
The landscape most unlikely
A fear of yet another shipwreck
Sounding aloof but verily
The lighthouse, the rows, the deck

Europe after the Rain...

So far it's been
From within a cave
Crafted with slow deeps
Underneath a stair
During my sleep
I endure visions
Of the mightiest port
The kinder skin of grass
And flowers in the fall
In my dream
The stench of the smoke
Pouring out of the skin
Into the cells of cement
Is transformed into waters
That navigate through the nails
Shun off the call of one's death
I see snails and rows of houses
But I hear only waters
They suffocate in the small islands
Twisted from their own thirst
To love the meadows of sand
The crave for piles of hay
Burning in spectacular yellows
Every scrap of paper, a riviera
Keeping the secrets
Of journeys yet undone
Everything vanishes into plaster
Into the smells of unwashed cloth
Into the distance
Kneeling down before the dreams
Begging for another minute
Of delusion
Of a better world
Or a real port
Where the cave
Is transformed into the light
Where the silence
Becomes louder than the tide
The elbows of the poet
Are visible at dusk
The young flesh bruised by the hours
Of the pen
Wearing the thinness of the lotus
Reaching out
Without dying
And also without falling
For kinder words
For another world

Response to Raphaël

"I want an absolute transformation, however minute, that the encounter with a person of a work of art will change everything" -Susan Sontag

The discovery of a new work of art, the musical piece or the painting, has the primordial quality of throwing us back into a simultaneity of times, usually the return to one's own origin that serves as well the purpose of advancing the nearness, however figurative, of one's own death. In spite of its greatest theoretical ambitions, philosophy has always lagged behind in the much sought-after purity of this experience, insofar as this discipline, as a science, has no immediate access to the eyes and the eyes of the world, death as the ultimate aesthetic experience is vetoed for the philosopher - The Absolute, insofar as it doesn't concern the individual parts, is unable to turn a glimpse on itself, lest it happens all too late and therefore, the philosopher knows no lifetime, in the nauseating madness, by-product of absolute vertigo, the philosopher, even if he has lived a very long life and has a fair amount of memories to recount, realizes that he has no past, as long as he's been a philosopher through the whole of his life. This has plagued not only Gilson, but everyone from Plato to Spinoza to Hegel. For the philosopher, the testimony of art, its quality as an artifact of the world, is preposterously ephemeral and the choices left as few, because in this "stans aeternitatis", the time of the creation of the world and withal, the urgency inherent to life, are as alien to the philosopher as silent the breathe of an evil spell. There's no progress in philosophy, no history of philosophy, no philosophical history or historical philosophy, as long as one hasn't surrendered to the faith that the world is being looked at from the quintessentially future perspective of a day after the advent of catastrophe; when the world as we know, has been helplessly destroyed, its morphology altered and the shape of its permanence, has ultimately passed. Philosophy is a science of death, and this had been apparently very clear to Plato himself who held philosophy happily liable to the charges of being the science of "how to die". In this sense the enmity between philosophy and politics and life, is less than a casual accident, it constitutes the most radical form of homelessness, or in the words of a medieval emperor, "That be world be destroyed, but truth shall prevail". There comes inevitably the Christian question over the use of the world, in this valley of tears, the desert of Egypt through which the People of Israel are ought to cross through the madness of Reed Sea; wouldn't it be better to be at home in the world and yet dispossessed of all possible truth? This curiosity over the world plagued even the pious and sterile Lessing who wrote once, "If God would hold all the truth of the world in one hand and in the other the interminable doubt and thirst over truth and would ask, Lessing, choose one of the two! Truth belongs to thee alone my Lord". Wouldn't it be better to reject truth for the sake of an abode in the world? It's not the eternal truth, it's certainly no truth, but why should we abandon the pleasures of the world for the sake of truth alone?

We're confronted then with broken mirrors everywhere, every work of art manifests itself in the world in a two-fold manner: It constitutes the world-building activity par excellence while at the same time its permanence, the fact that just like the world, it was there before us, it will be there after we part, this fact alone destroys the unity of life, destroys the biological continuity of life, it points toward a sense of transcendence that can no longer be reached, it's perpetually melancholic, an image stolen from consciousness and yet unavailable within the repository of passing worldly artifacts and produce of human labor - necessary for survival of the species, otherwise it couldn't quality for a place of honor among the works of art. Historically, philosophy has demonstrated a certain aversion to consider the works of art, the temporary quality of artistic production was incompatible with metaphysics in the medieval period and in the modern period, unbearable for the utilitarian equation between means and results that has defined philosophy through the whole of the modern period since it is the artist alone the free man, the only individual in the hierarchy of society whose production is not necessary for functional survival and whose life does not depend on production alone. But the fascination about works of art has been as perennial as the enterprise of metaphysics itself, there has been no other source of philosophical imagination that the commentary on the extant works of art from different periods. Fascination and imagination however are not coeval with truthfulness and pleasure as such, as much as deceive, has never been a category of systematic thought unless we are taking for thought the abstract notions of pleasure derived Kant's Critique of synthetic judgments a priori rather than the unmediated and raw experience of art as it was bequeathed to us by the trembling and fear of the learned men of the Renaissance and the Baroque. The human eye of these men of science and virtue and their discovery of different worlds, inside and outside the earth, was radically affected by the infinite diminishing in the stature of Western man; they were only able to pull a survivor's trick - they laughed hysterically, but beneath this laughter hid their infinite tremor, their infinite vertigo as they stood in front of the abyss - "Oh the time is out of joint! Cursed spite, that thou wert borne to set it aright" (Hamlet). If such were in fact the dimensions of the universe, there could be no possible way to find out who we are or what the meaning of life is, for as long as we're alive and of this infinitesimally small world. It might be that this was the transitional period of art between forms and expressions, but yet the fact remained unchanged even at the times of WWII when Romain Rolland wrote in a letter to Stefan Zweig that art brings us consolation as individuals but it is powerless before reality. Nietzsche knew this well as his death loomed close and he only found consolation from his great physical pain as his sister played the piano.

Sweelinck was one of these men, for whom music was not only aesthetic pleasure but the impossible realization that there were no longer safeties in the world, the heraldic awareness that the choice between God and hell was not as paradoxical as we might have thought: It could have been a simple choice between leaving the world as we know it to be lifted up by the arm of the Holiest, or to stay in the world and reject paradise, to stay in the world and as in Kleist, deny the possibility of innocence once we can no longer choose ourselves for the god or the stone, we are barely witnesses. Christian art as such is in principle a little bit unchristian as all art is insofar as the representability of anything, is an immediate call to its ultimate mortality, the suffering of the Cross, the greatest burden ever borne by man was turned into an object of contemplation, into an object of beauty and as such into an object of death if one insists in remaining a Christian. The wolf is at the door, the close of times always at hand, and the struggle with the demon always in the greener grass: The violent force of Sweelinck lies on his similarity with Goethe, in the fact that he always stood at the gates, he looked at the abyss into the eye in a clear morning of the summer when the beauty of its shine was visible at peak of twilight, he saw the fires of hell consuming his soul; yet unlike Goethe he saw the danger, he saw Kleist and Hoelderlin and Nietzsche falling into the abyss, he wiped the sweat from their forehead, tended to their wounds, quenched their thirst with fresher waters, but he did not jump. This is the greatness and the burden of his realization. Unlike the four Protestant agitators that surrender to the endless reciting of a "Deus excelsis gloria", Sweelinck could not kneel down, he was the miracle and the wine but not the saint. His greatest sin: The silence before the Kingdom of Heaven. It was perhaps someone like Sweelinck behind the miracle of the Holy Cecile, the maker of this great impasse, it is the evil spell that he himself did not fall prey to. The great sin of the listener is that the more he listens to the magic, the more he is surrendered to this world with its ugly and endless pathways of graves extending along the grass that grows with the violence of life and wraps everything into a symphony of oblivion, this is perhaps what eternity is, the fact that we can't survive the hour of freedom even by one single hour. The listened kneels down but what comes closer is his death, and not the gates of heaven that are open only to those innocent, only to puppets and to gods. The sublime object is always an unchangeable artifact, that's the secret of its cruelty, that the sublime cannot be sublimated, not even by silence. Those who search for God in Sweelinck, just like in the Christian piety of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, are entirely doomed, because the anxiety is the symptom of traveling toward an impossible destination; Kierkegaard was clear about that: the Christian does not exist YET. The suffocating and toxic air derives not from its eternal rising into the clarity of the skies above, but from the fact that "the Church, that community of God in the future, eternally dissatisfied with the present" (Bloch) is still a descent, the place hasn't changed and if it would, we wouldn't know, because every self-proclaimed Messiah is a false of Messiah - even if the Messiah is a piece of music alone. The miracle is not so much the conversion of the water into wine but as in Rilke the maddening fact that the water is still water and the wine is still wine. The channels of friendship ought to remain open, they assure us to the practice of reality and ultimately define that we are not alone with God in the universe, if the ascent would be immediate, we would no longer need each other, but as the abyss deepens and tightens at the level of the neck to the point of strangling, the other, that is, the friend, is the insurance that there's no insurance for truth as long we we remain committed to the life of this world. There's then a way to circumvent the valley of tears and to be at home: To kneel down with the security that we shall not rise, but that, in order to be accomplished, it needs at least two.

The danger is not to fall, that would be too easy, the danger is to remain at the threshold, looking down, that's in fact, the greatest sin, that's why the aspiration to transformation is the only commodity that can save us not, only the fallen can be saved, the puppets and the gods.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Problems of Literature

My problem with the idea of writing is perhaps not necessarily an issue of craft, of literary craft - whether we are able to write at all, or not, for it's become evident that somehow I'm able to write, it's more like perhaps I don't quite want to hear what I'm in need of writing, it frightens me so often to hear myself. If it were an issue as simple as that of evoking the imagination, of surrendering the provocation of the invention, the repository of fantasy, then it could be easily overcome, but the repository of the memory is a lot more demanding, it's not simply an issue of aesthetics, but the fact that it's impossible to avoid the memoryhouse of experience. I'm equally unable to write or read too much, I swallow bits of the world with much paucity and care, trying not to miss anything, because the openness required for sincerity of writing is not that of simply trying to sketch a travel log of worldtime, but rather to depart from the repository of the strictly personal - experiences, acquired tastes, stories that might be of our interest or might not, stories that we have heard from other people or that we believe we have heard, in order to create a sense of the story (be it a critical or philosophical essay, a poem, a short story, a journalistic article) that appeals universally to the demands of the reader, of the people, of the world, how do you transform the raw material into something universally readable? Authors often tend to think it has to do with themselves and that's why confession it's always such a stumbling block to depart from in the making of literature. You're not so important after all and the possibility to tell a story in which you're not the most important part, even if it's a story about yourself, it is in this possibility that lies the loyalty to poetics and to creativity. It shouldn't be a deadly enterprise to write neither the good will to curb a suicide attempt on the part of the writer; insofar as this is supposed to be an art, there must be in it more enjoyment than pure salvation, because in the end, art is necessarily powerless before life and the act of transcending that is enabled by the production of literature is not based upon an avoidance of life on the one hand, or the plain excruciating literality on the other, both literatures, those of avoidance and of literality, however interesting, lack in every single way the power to evoke and are therefore false. You must be able to take a step back, to withdraw, to position yourself beyond and prior to attachment, both at the same time. That there's "something" to tell, it is a fact of life, part of the recognition that we find on other people and that we call friendship and love, stems from the fact that we share in this language of lips and hands, and why should one story be of superior quality to another doesn't necessarily procede from the content but from the ability of the writer to enable the reader to take part even if it is at the price of forgetting that the story isn't his own. Because there's an aesthetic appeal to which we resort, whenever we're ought to think about art at all, the categories that we use, to think of this "art" are always somewhat abstract and in that sense it's not only that they fail to engage the audience but also that we fail to be engaged ourselves. There's no position more dangerous in literary production than the idea of considering the reader infinitely inferior or dumb, in which case, the worldliness of the work of art becomes a great fallacy, and does it happen ever that we write only for ourselves? I doubt it, even in the most precarious cases, sometimes we write for the silent eye of God, or for an anynonymous recipient or for sometimes who can't read us for one reason or another, but I don't think we ever write only for ourselves. Some people have the ability to reflect upon their experiences within the traditional voices of narrative, time after time, sometimes even as the events are taking place, defying all concepts of time and space, whereas for me, differently enough, it takes years to consider the effect of the simplest passages, or the loneliest alleys or of very harmless yet beautiful, moments of the day.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


I sweat like an animal even though I can't feel the smell but deep inside me the turbulent waters come afloat and wrap my body in their motions of vertail lines falling from my head, it is not a summer day, it is a very different kind of sweat, I'm overcome by shame, by the lies of my body that speaks in signals that I would never want to hear, there's so little time, so they say, the lines of expression in my forehead and the newborn tiredness of my eyes, if I'm unable to write now, I shall never be able to do it. The imprisonment takes a toll on me, I keep dreaming but the waves of the clouds that trace my daydreaming seem to come from too far away, from a place where I never requested anything, not even a passing moment. The body is so often tired, especially one of the eyes, and yet, it could perfectly have been a summer day, the beautiful rays of sun which I hadn't seen for such a long time, the unwillingness to settle down for one place alone and the tender breezes of the grass, the joyful motions of the passers and the jokes, the pleasures of friendship, the painless thoroughway by the side of the cement buildings sprang forth as a river from which I obtained yet one moment more of life.

It's not normal, one should say to himself, that he's ought to ask permission to live, as if it were to no avail to try on one's own, to tell the real story, so uninteresting in itself and more than anything, so painful, not from the bruises and the wounds caused by father but more the bruises caused by the total dearth of knowledge, the little deaths when certain conversations take place, the unsuccessful attempts to run away with their periods of injustice, hunger and especially sleeplessness, the idea that danger looms too close, the exposition to the perils of the street and the mercilessness of the stranger in whose eyes one's looking for a little bit of comfort, nowhere to be found. Nowhere, other than in oneself and there it's no longer comfort and consolation, it's become already vital energy once it's found.

The guilt is unavoidable, the sterile guilt of having done something wrong or of not having done anything at all, suffocated by the sweat, the reminder of this sin, the impossible language without lips and without arms, it's an army of events that all the more disjointed make the world collapse into his eyes, he's no longer there, he's already parted to the far away land.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


It is not out of tiredness
That I have ceased from speech
It is not the weather
Nor is it the world
What forces me to lay on the water
Without musing a word
In a little death

It is not the solitude
That brings me to the meadows
What provokes this silence
It is not the strength of northern winds
What loses the direction home
Along the trodden paths of the forest

It is not hunger
That bruises lips and fingertips
What keeps me from the certitude
Of a poet

It is not the rain
That destroys the crops in the fields
What loots delight from little pleasures

It is not something tragic
That learned men understand not
What is at the root of this evil

It is yet something so simple

That a stranger in the street
Did not wave back
At the right time

That a friend did not stay
For a minute in the sun
That my feet are cold
That a friend does not write
That he remains entrusted
To higher wisdoms
Than the rapture in the pasture

It is a reason strong enough
Not to write
In the expectation
To be written to
At a later date


The green pastures of rapture
Grow from undernearth the faces
Of heroes and fathers of the land
They tilt up their arrows and arms
As if they had bodies of their own
Surrounding the the lips and the handshakes
Of friend ever so childish
There's nowhere distraction
From the silence
Of disinterest
In wisdom twice bathed
In different versions of the morning

There's no spell other than laughter
Under the eye of an inspecting Saturn
Descending into the highway
Bidding farewell at noon
As if they were brothers
That had never seen each other
So free from the excesses of love
Unready to part, unwilling to stay
The station is just temporary
He reminds himself
As if there were other faces
Opening somewhere his letters

All day long, a navigation map
Without the stare of fantasy
How cruel had the pasture been
How deserted that afternoon after the summer
So insensible the rapture to the water
That had wanted to stay
To mend the world from down upwards
Moisturing the wounds of the garden
That one day would grow trees eventually
That would answer all the questions
In spite of those innocent hands
In the abscence of the friend that was

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The young Franz (I)

That night, as it rained upon, he thought that what might come is no sense a work of art, since there were no powers of the imagination that could be gentle enough to seduce the awareness of his newfound belly, it wasn't necessarily a belly or protrusion even but the fact of having adopted the position, not of someone bellyached, but of somebody imaginarily fat and ugly, althoug he could in no possible sense consider himself either because his spiritual narcissicism would make it then impossible that he could ever sleep again with himself without the disgust manufactured by the impossibilities of physics to keep a body within the right proportions - If he would have a belly himself, he wouldn't be so worried about the belly as much as he would be, about the sweat that would run in between the wrinkles of the flesh and the hairs that would grow around his neck and all through the surface of his back as if it were corn overgrowing the grass in the pasture of a beautiful plateau. He was as slim as ever and perhaps because his ever increasing abandonment of the world, slimmer and dimmer, there was no longer a spark of light to gaze into at the height of noon with that glow of glimmer; everything had become so much less obvious, there were other places in his body and other smells that stood in lieu of what had been once a natural gift for curiosity and surprise in the eyes. It wasn't that the eyes were no longer beautiful and it is the case that the eyes of the person that is loved, are always eyes of the beautiful even if the aesthetic faculties of imagination and sensibility, would fail to reach the same conclusions. Those faculties from their part, very philosophical in nature are therefore, necessarily blind, and that's why he's always reconciled with their opinions; there's nothing further removed from his wishes than to allow the sense of things to pervert the ultimate perfection of the concept. Everything seems to have a concept for him, the most basic assumptions about reality are not to be taken for the granted, this is however not the consequence of inner evil, but a side effect of an illness so completely external to him and to his world that it becomes so manifest in the outside world that one might then it is a matter of inwardness, thus he begins to search deep inside him for the root of his pale sorrow.

It never occured to him that the world should be inspected even if only as a precaution - some questions need to be asked, enquiries are ought to be run throughout and the questionnaires must be completed in full. It wasn't having a belly or not having a belly what tortured him and what led him after all, being an adventurous young man, to a mysterious choice such as classical music, but rather the fact that being free as he was, he was completely deprived from the most basic choices in life, it could have been an idyllic life for Adam before the Fall, which wasn't a fall as much as it was a problem of uncertainty, it was perhaps Adam the first atheist, otherwise had he cared much, he could have brokered a deal with his creditor; Adam would have then loved the day we had just been told about when it began to rain: So free from any worldly responsibility, the young man arose everyday to fulfill the commandment of love toward parents and brothers, he could spend the whole day in sweet surrender to the most delirious intellectual pursuits, perhaps learning a tongue now forgotten, like Heinrich Schliemann, who is said to have studied and mastered Russian among other languages in a matter of weeks while being left on his own in a Greek villa without any chairs to sit whereon, thus the man, thirsty of acquiring wealth of worldly knowledge studied the grammar books of the most diverse languages running pacing back and forth through the house. How could anyone not find solace in this kind of life? It is a monasticism without religion and without faith of any kind, because, different from Schliemann, this young man didn't believe in Homer, nor in his own omein. What kind of monasticism was it then, that it was music, his ultimately choice?

He had thought of himself primarily as an artist although there were no specific talents that those close to him could recognize from the outside, he had some abilities for writing, he had them since he was a very young child but they were never specifically treasured as a talent, neither were they developed or pointed out anywhere; his problem was not that he didn't believe in Homer or the fact that he didn't believe but rather the spurious fact of how ordinary his life was, or at the least, how ordinary it had become, after he had chosen himself for such a destiny of greatness out of which he had fallen not because of incapability but because of the unrest fixed in the palms of his hands and the crystalline fog of his eyes were advancing much faster than the world and this caused him to become extremely anxious about being understood by people, what had to be understood, is not that he was extraordinary, which he was not, or perhaps only as a story-teller, what was extraordinary is that he, the son of a nobody, of town's folk without the slighest indication of being cursed or blessed by the Lord - they were just left on their own, without any major afflictions but also without much symptom of what people call happiness; this son of a nobody, could, in theory, become whoever he had desired. It was perhaps this transformation, this effacement of whatever the world had prescribed for him, this inability to march with the seasons, what had become entirely an art with him - the difficulties began to arise when this spiritual strength, noble as it was, failed to produce any material results; it is not only that he had never written a poem worthy of admiration but also that he had not been able to assert the allegedly self-earned position and near the age of thirty, he had no other income that some coins that his father pitily regaled him so that he wouldn't go into raving madness in the abscence of tobacco. He thought then, that night, that no art could come out of him, no art that wouldn't be manifest in the form of this transformation into another person, into another fatherland, into another language of sorts.

It wasn't that he couldn't write, but so quite unlike many of the chidish fable writers, his imagination was so very poor.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Der höhere Frieden - Heinrich von Kleist

Der höhere Frieden

Wenn sich auf des Krieges Donnerwagen,
Menschen waffnen, auf der Zwietracht Ruf,
Menschen, die im Busen Herzen tragen,
Herzen, die der Gott der Liebe schuf:

Denk ich, können sie doch mir nichts rauben,
Nicht den Frieden, der sich selbst bewährt,
Nicht die Unschuld, nicht an Gott den Glauben,
Der dem Hasse, wie dem Schrecken, wehrt.

Nicht des Ahorns dunkelm Schatten wehren,
Dass es mich, im Weizenfeld, erquickt,
Und das Lied der Nachtigall nicht stören,
Die den stillen Busen mir entzückt.


In the thunderbox of wars,
At the call of discord, to arms men hold fast,
Men that carry in their chest hearts,
The hearts created by God in love last.

Methinks, dispossessed I cannot by thief,
Not from peace, on its own right preserved,
Not from innocence, not from the god of belief
That hate and terror, he hath not served.

Not from the dark shadow of the maple,
That freshens me on the cornfield,
Or to disturb the song of nightingale
Delight of the heart that in silence it yields.

Was ist die Welt? - Hugo von Hofmannsthal

To my friend Tundama

Was ist die Welt? Ein ewiges Gedicht,
Daraus der Geist der Gottheit stahlt und glüht,
Daraus der Wein der Weisheit schäumt und sprüht,
Daraus der Laut der Liebe zu uns spricht

Und jedes Menschen wechselndes Gemüt,
Ein Strahl ists, der aus dieser Sonne bricht,
Ein Vers, der sich an tausend andre flicht,
Der unbemerkt verhallt, verlischt, verblüht.

Und doch auch eine Welt für sich allein,
Voll süss-geheimner, nievernommner Töne,
Begabt mit eigner, unentweihter Schöne,

Und keines Andern Nachhall, Widerschein.
Und wenn du gar zu lesen drin verstündest,
Ein Buch, das du im Leben ergründest.

What is the world? A poem of the eternal
Out of which the spirit of the godly glows with the stars,
Out of which the wine of the wisdom foams and sparks,
Out of which the sound of love speaks to all!

And of every man, the ever changing mind,
It is the radiant light, out of which the sun shines,
It is a verse, that among thousand others, reigns and rhymes,
Unnoticeable, away it dies, whiters to unwind,

A whole world in himself,
Full of sweet unveiled and never ending tones,
Gifted with its own seamless crown,

Else, no reverberations or reverberant sounds.
And if you understood enough, to read it from the inside
Be it a book, that life it fathoms from outside.

Die gestundete Zeit - Ingeborg Bachmann

Es kommen härtere Tage.
Die auf Widerruf gestundete Zeit
wird sichtbar am Horizont.
Bald musst du den Schuh schnüren
und die Hunde zurückjagen in die Marschhöfe.
Denn die Eingeweide der Fische
sind kalt geworden im Wind.
Ärmlich brennt das Licht der Lupinen.
Dein Blick spurt im Nebel:
die auf Widerruf gestundete Zeit
wird sichtbar am Horizont.

Drüber versinkt die die Geliebte im Sand,
er steigt um ihr wehendes Haar,
er fällt ihr ins Wort,
er befiehlt ihr zu schweigen,
er findet sie sterblich
und willigt dem Abschied
nach jeder Umarmung.

Sieh dich nicht um.
Schnür deine Schuh.
Jag die Hunde züruck.
Wirf die Fische ins Meer.
Lösch die Lupinen!

Es kommen härtere Tage.

Harder days are coming.
The time due at the turn of the hour
becomes visible in the horizon.
Soon you will have to lace your shoe
and march the dogs back into the marshyards.
For the innards of the fish
have turned cold in the wind.
The lupines burn with miser flame.
Your gaze leaves marks in the haze:
The time due at the turn of the hour
becomes visible in the horizon.

Yonder sinks your beloved into sand,
it ascends through the wafts in the hair
it pierces her words through,
commanded her to silence,
encounters her mortally
all too willing to part
after every embrace.

Do not look behind.
Lace up your shoe.
March in the dogs.
Throw the fish in the sea.
Away with the lupines!

Harder days are coming!